Search This Blog

Monday, January 31, 2011

Some Physiological and Psychological Benefits of Feldenkrais

We all know that better posture brings many health benefits, both physical and mental. ‘Most people have been admonished at some point in time to “Stand up – or sit up -- straight!” And we have all tried to do just that – straighten up from our sometimes less-than-perfect posture, in the midst of a long day or a tedious task, or while seated in an uncomfortable chair. Yet to improve posture we must learn to increase our body awareness and find good posture from the inside out, rather than by mimicking ideas based on appearances. Feldenkrais® practitioners and Bones for Life®  teachers have an impressive track record of teaching better posture with gentle movement lessons. Using a simple, relaxing body scan and lessons you can do in your own home, you can forge a path to better posture, greater body awareness, and the improvements in self-image, fluid movement and wellbeing that come with that achievement.
How does good posture benefit us?
No wonder we make these heroic efforts, forcing ourselves to 'sit up and stand up straight'! Our posture says a lot, sending messages both outward to the world around us, and inward to the enthusiastic animal inside who wants to be ready for action. We know that maintaining a dynamic posture helps us to get right with the world and with ourselves, particularly as we age. We hope to remain tall throughout our lives, and to reap the benefits of better posture:

>  beautiful, effortless, fluid movement
>  space for breathing and for vital organs to work unimpeded
>  improved circulation and energy flow
>  greater comfort and mobility
>  less wear and tear on our joints
> improved mood, self-image and appearance
How do we improve our posture?
For starters, it is helpful to modify our view of posture from a frozen state of ‘straightness’ to a dynamic state of ‘tallness’. In his most popular book, Awareness Through Movement: Easy-to-Do Health Exercises to Improve Your Posture, Vision, Imagination, and Personal Awareness, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais says, “The word ‘straight’ is misleading. It does not express what is needed.” 

What IS needed is a high level of body awareness, and a balanced use of our muscles! In this way, the skeleton is free to do what it does best: counteract the pull of gravity. From this kind of balanced state, beautiful posture emerges naturally. Voila!

Feldenkrais®  and Bones for Life® practitioners specialize in creating very noticeable, dynamic changes in body awareness through deceptively simple lessons. If you feel comfortable, try the mini-lesson below to discover how you can stand tall and move in a way that feels pleasurable rather than forced, creating change from the inside out.  

REMEMBER, Go slowly, be careful.  Always do less or stop if you encounter discomfort.  Visualizing movement fires up those neurons almost as well as physically doing the movement.

Mini-Lesson:  Pressure from the feet wakes up the torso
First, lie on down on the floor with your legs long and arms to your side. Do a quick body scan. Ask yourself: “Which parts of my body are making firm contact with the floor right now, which are barely touching the floor, and which are not touching at all? Is it the same on my left and right sides?” Now, begin:
  • Lie on the floor, with your back, hips and head on the floor. Bend 90 degrees at the hips and knees, and place your feet on the wall.
  • Lightly press your feet into the wall, as if you are pushing the wall away from yourself.
  • Very important: Use only about 10 percent of your strength.
  • Continue to repeat this in a very slow, rhythmic way, first pressing your feet into the wall, and then gradually releasing the pressure
  • Notice the response in the rest of your body that occurs when you press your feet into the wall. This response varies from person to person, and tends to increase with repetition.
  • Perhaps your pelvis tilts in a particular way in response to pressing into the wall with your feet. This is not something you have to make happen; it happens on its own.
  • As your pelvis tilts, your low back moves toward the floor; you may also feel small movements in your spine, upper chest, ribcage, neck or head.
  • Enjoy all of these subtle movements that occur when you press your feet into the wall, resting occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.
  •  At the end of your lesson, repeat your body scan, again asking: “Which parts of my body are making firm contact with the floor right, which are barely touching the floor, and which are not touching at all? Is it the same on my left and right sides?”  
Notice what has changed.
Finally, stand up and see how it feels to be vertical. Has something changed about your posture? Take a short walk, and enjoy any changes you may feel in your walking.
This kind of simple lesson, derived from the Feldenkrais Method® and the Bones for Life® program, can result in quite dramatic and surprising results over time, teaching you to have better posture with very little effort.  

Thank you, Meriah Kruse, GCFP!!!  Wonderful stuff.